China NFT Weekly: The Hype Around Virtual Real Estate

Digestible news about the latest developments across the fields of NFT, blockchain and metaverse in China, delivered to you every Thursday.

This week: Hong Kong property tycoon invests in Animoca Brands, Crypto exchange BitMart loses $150 million to hackers, Meta opens up access to its VR social platform Horizon Worlds, and more.

Hong Kong Property Tycoon Invests in Animoca Brands to Sell Land NFTs

Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, the third-generation scion of Hong Kong conglomerate New World Development, has added virtual real estate to his growing portfolio of investments.

  • Cheng has invested in The Sandbox, a unit of Animoca Brands, a Hong Kong-based mobile gaming and blockchain unicorn, according to a statement from his office. The Sandbox is a decentralized gaming virtual world, offering virtual real estate, called Land NFTs.
  • In The Sandbox, investors can buy property and develop their assets much like in the real world where users can buy their games and items from.
  • Cheng’s virtual real estate will be one of the largest plots on The Sandbox. It will form part of the “Mega City” virtual world that will feature his “Innovation Hub,” where successful startups that he personally supported from the Greater Bay Area will have a space to sell their products.
    • These include Hong Kong accessories brand Casetify, genetics and diagnostic testing company Prenetics, V Cycle, which collects and recycles waste, and Rice Robotics, which has developed robots that can automatically disinfect shopping malls and deliver meals in quarantine hotels.
  • Animoca raised $65 million in a second round of funding in October, with its valuation doubling to more than $2 billion. The startup had raised $138.88 million in a previous round earlier this year, during which it was valued at $1 billion, making it Hong Kong’s ninth unicorn.

SEE ALSO: Blockchain and Mobile-Gaming Unicorn Animoca Brands Seeks More Funding to Build Metaverse

Crypto Exchange BitMart Loses $150 Million to Hackers

Crypto trading platform Bitmart said on Saturday it had experienced “a large-scale security breach” and that hackers had withdrawn about $150 million in assets.

  • Bitmart claims hackers withdrew about $150 million in assets. However, blockchain security and data analytics firm Peckshield, which first publicized the hack, estimates that the loss is closer to $200 million.
  • Peckshield estimated that Bitmart lost around $100 million in various cryptocurrencies on the ethereum blockchain and another $96 million from coins on the binance smart chain. The hackers made off with a mix of more than 20 tokens, including binance coin, safemoon and shiba inu.
  • In response to the incident, BitMart wrote in an official announcement that the security breach was mainly caused by “a stolen private key that had two of our hot wallets compromised. Other assets with BitMart are safe and unharmed.”
  • Bitmart says it will use its own money to reimburse victims of the large-scale security breach. (CNBC)

Venture Accelerator Brinc Closes $130 Million Funding Round Led by Animoca Brands

Brinc closed a $30 million Series B funding round led by Hong Kong-based games company Animoca Brands, which will invest $100 million into startups through Brinc.

  • Brinc will use the proceeds to expand its offering of Web 3 programming, open new locations and hire additional talent. Brinc cofounder Bay McLaughlin identified a number of markets in Asia as targets for potential expansion, including Japan, Korea, Singapore and India, as well as added presence in China. In November this year, Brinc opened an office in Brazil, its first in Latin America.
  • The investment from Animoca Brands continues the two firms’ ongoing partnership, following the joint development of Launchpad Luna, an accelerator program that invests in promising blockchain and NFT startups. Brinc claims to have supported the growth of more than 200 startups since the launch of the accelerator program in 2014. (Coindesk, TechCrunch)

People’s Daily Issues New Warning on Metaverse

In a commentary published Thursday, People’s Daily issued a warning against speculators engaging in virtual property sales. The CCP mouthpiece newspaper said property sales in the metaverse resembled “product financialization” and carried risks of volatility, fraud, illegal fundraising and money laundering.

Meta Opens Access to Its VR Social Platform Horizon Worlds

Meta is now open to everyone in the US and Canada over 18.

  • Horizon Worlds launched in beta last year to select Oculus VR users, who answered invitations to join the virtual world. With the announcement last week, users will no longer need to be invited.
  • Safety is a big concern for a VR environment like Horizon Worlds, as users can easily interact with someone they do not know. Earlier this month, a beta tester posted in the official Horizon group on Facebook about how her avatar was groped by a stranger.
  • For now, creators and gamers cannot make money in Horizon Worlds. Future monetizaiton plans include Horizon Venues, a standalone experience for organizing large events in VR, and Horizon Workrooms, its VR work collaboration software. Until monetization is added, Meta hopes that the world-building aspect of Horizion Worlds will entice people. (The Verge, CNBC)

Almonds used to be bitter and lethal.

  • The bitterness and toxicity of wild almonds come from a compound called amygdalin. When ingested, amgdalin breaks down into a variety of chemicals, including cyanide, which is a deadly poison. This is how wild almonds keep their predators away.
  • Thousands of years ago, a lucky genetic mutation “turned off” the almond’s ability to produce amygadlin, making the nut tasty and safe to eat. The mutation also made almond domestication possible, but when exactly that happened is still unknown to us.

That’s it for this week’s newsletter. Thanks for reading! As always, I welcome any feedback on how to make this newsletter better. My email is See you again next week!